When reading about travel online it can seem like it’s all epic scenery in faraway places, glamorous hotel stays and life-changing experiences. And it certainly can be!
But for me, it also came with a lot of anxiety – paralyzingly so.
Between flying, packing, feeling unprepared and adjusting to new places, it can all be overwhelming. Travel has been a huge part of my life for the past six years both for work and play. Over this time, I have created a few rituals and habits to create a much smoother, easier experience. Some of them are common knowledge and others might be something knew to consider – either way, they are ideas to tap back into ourselves and I hope they bring some calm to your travel routine!
8 Ways to Manage Flight + Travel Anxiety
This blogpost is in partnership with Athleta but, as always, all opinions and recommendations are my own.
1. Roll With The Punches And Expect A Few Stressful Points
When we travel, especially if it’s more infrequently, I think we go into a trip with the expectation of everything being perfect and going off without a hitch! When in reality, there can be missed flights, wrong bookings, jet lag, long hauls to a terminal across an airport and delayed layovers.
By expecting this, we release stress and anxiety when something does go wrong because there was no expectation of perfection. When we understand that these can be very normal parts of travel, we can roll with the punches easier and acknowledge that a) we’re still headed where we need to go and b) we can still have fun!
2. Create A Packing Habit + Follow It Every Time You Travel
I used to pack for every destination differently – different clothes, accessories, toiletries, etc – which often led to a suitcase full of outfits I don’t wear, products I didn’t need and meant that I also forgot necessary items more easily.
After a few years of this, I started developing a physical list (which has now become a mental list) of items I need from head to toe. Literally, I visualize the crown of my head and work my way down my body until my toes, checking off what I need. By doing it in this fashion, I have a much better shot of remembering exactly what I need, don’t overpack and am so much more mindful of what I need vs just packing whatever!
I’ve learned that less is more and if I think I need it, I probably don’t. Therefore, when I’m packing I try to be practical and honest with myself on what I’m going to actually use. We mainly pack carry-on, even for month-long trips so I’ve got it down to a much better science than I used to.
I’m not saying this is the perfect way of packing – I’m just saying, find your system, whatever works for you, and repeat it each trip. You’ll get into rhythm and it’ll make packing so much less stressful!
3. Know What To Expect
Well, to the best extent that you can! If you’re traveling out of the country or even somewhere new domestically, do a bit of research beforehand. Aaron and I like to get a lay of the land and have a few things lined up so that we’re not panicked when we get there, not knowing where our hotel is or where we’re going to get our first meal.
Check out blogposts beforehand, maybe download a guide book and take the time to learn about the destination before you arrive.
What language is spoken? What are the customs? Do you need different outlet plugs for this country? Do you need to exchange currency? Is the airport close to where you’re staying? Does your airbnb allow for late check-ins?
Knowing the answers to these questions beforehand, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and headache when you arrive. There’s nothing worse than showing up somewhere and not having a clue about the place. Knowledge is most definitely power.
4. Develop Travel Rituals To Relieve Stress
Similarly to what I shared about packing, when we developing rituals or rhythms we help get our brain into flow state. When we also do this in other facets of our travel experience, we develop familiarity which allows us to feel grounded and calm.
Some rituals to consider:
- Focusing on your breath + doing deep breathing exercises
- Stop, drop and squatting at the airport (or any form of movement)
- Filling your belly before a flight
- Unpacking when you arrive to your hotel
- Using a comforting blend of essential oils
5. Create A Comfortable, Go-To Travel Outfit
We’ve all seen it – the gal running to her gate in heels – and every time I wonder two things: How? And … Why? I mean, to each their own.. but I am definitely all about comfort when I travel. Something that brings me great calm when I travel is having an easy, comfortable outfit that is functional and beautiful.
I often go for a pair of leggings or joggers, a simple tank/tee and a jacket, with a turkish towel in my tote that I can use as a blanket or scarf. I love Athleta’s line specifically designed for travel. Their pieces are made from sustainable fabrics like TENCEL® Lyocell and TENCEL® Modal which is made from trees grown in sustainably managed forests, organic cotton which is grown without harmful chemicals, helping support healthy ecosystems and recycled polyester, nylon and eco insulation which give discarded plastic bottles, fishing nets and excess fabric scraps a new life. Read more about their efforts here.
I’m wearing pieces from their travel collection throughout the images in this blogpost. Athleta is a certified B Corp with 60% of their materials made of sustainable fibers (and an awesome goal to make that 80% by next year). With the immense volume they create as a company, this is a really exciting shift to witness.
Read more about why sustainably + ethically made clothing is so important here and the first steps to travel more sustainably here.
Note: any garment made from plastic (even if it is recycled) sheds micro-fibers into waterways in the wash. Fabrics like polyester, nylon and rayon (read more here) are all comprised of plastic. Make sure you are washing these items in a Guppyfriend bag or choosing natural, organically grown fibers.
6. Have Something EPIC To Look Forward To On Your Trip
This one might seem a bit obvious, I know. Often times, we’re traveling to a new places to experience all the new sights, smells, tastes and experiences it has to offer. But, I like to have something specific that I’m really looking forward to that I can focus on. When there is turbulence in the plane or a screaming baby, when our layover is too long and my back hurts or when I’m schlepping a heavy bag through a long terminal – I like to visualize what I’m looking forward to!
On our recent trip to Kaua’i, pictured in this blogpost, we were both looking forward to two things: seeing the Nā Pali coast by sea and by sky. We had a boat tour booked and a helicopter tour as well! By visualizing these, I’m telling my brain that we’re in for something spectacular.
We love to leave room for spontaneity but definitely have a few things planned out before we head out on a trip. By having a framework of our upcoming time in my mind, and some anticipation of what’s to come, it takes the stress off of the transport getting to our destination!
7. Reprogram Your Mind About Flying
Something I read recently in the book The Big Leap has really inspired me. It read “Fear is excitement without the breath.” This is so true! There are so many parallels within fear and excitement.
Before starting a trip, start looking at the experience of flying as exciting rather than terrifying. Work to channel your fear about the flight into excitement for your destination and the adventures to come!
Flight anxiety is still something I struggle with but am learning ways to manage and cope with. The first step to conquering fear of flying is to pin point exactly what scares you the most about flights and then work through it.
Although fear of flying is a totally natural, and many people are feeling the same way we are, it is an irrational fear because airplanes are one of the safest modes of transportation. When we think rationally, the odds are most certainly in our favor.
A few years ago, I spoke with a flight attendant friend of mine about my fears and he helped calm a lot of them simply by sharing what planes are built to withstand. It can be helpful to speak to someone, watch a documentary on aviation or read some articles. A great way to conquer any fear is to do research and shed light on the topic. It’s easy to blow things out of proportion and only focus on the fear but we can alleviate some of the anxiety by taking time to understand the process.
Here are a few other ideas that have helped me through flights:
- Guided meditation apps
- Sitting in the window seat so I can see my surroundings
- Taking a melatonin or a having glass of wine ;)
Flying Tip: Sitting closer to the front of the plane will give you less turbulence for a smoother ride!
8. Come Prepared
Something that stresses me out about travel is the excessive amount of waste in airports and not having access to the food that makes me feel good. Processed food served in single-use plastic? No thanks.
Read this blogpost on how to reduce your waste when traveling but here is the short list. Come to the airport prepared with these things and take back control of your airport experience!
Bring these items:
- Reusable water bottle (so you don’t have to get a nasty plastic one)
- Your favorite homemade, healthy snacks in a stasher bag
- Reusable cutlery and to-go coffee mug
- Turkish towel to use blanket/scarf (and then a towel in your destination)
- Face mask (planes are SO dry so it’s awesome to do a mask on the plane)
- An awesome book or Audible book downloaded
- Feel Good or Meditation Playlist
- Something to keep you busy – for me, I edit photos or write
I find that bringing along a few items you can feel at home anywhere and enjoy the whole experience!